Pellistor sensors (or catalytic bead sensors) have been the primary technology for detecting flammable gases since the ‘60s. Despite having discussed a number of issues relating to the detection of flammable gases and VOC, we have not yet looked at how pellistors work. To make up for this, we are including a video explanation, which we hope you will download and use as part of any training you are conducting
A pellistor is based on a Wheatstone bridge circuit, and includes two “beads”, both of which encase platinum coils. One of the beads (the ‘active’ bead) is treated with a catalyst, which lowers the temperature at which the gas around it ignites. This bead becomes hot from the combustion, resulting in a temperature difference between this active and the other ‘reference’ bead. This causes a difference in resistance, which is measured; the amount of gas present is directly proportional to it, so gas concentration as a percentage of its lower explosive limit (%LEL*) can be accurately determined.
The hot bead and electrical circuitry are contained in flameproof sensor housing, behind the sintered metal flame arrestor (or sinter) through which the gas passes. Confined within this sensor housing, which maintains an internal temperature of 500°C, controlled combustion can occur, isolated from the outside environment. In high gas concentrations, the combustion process can be incomplete, resulting in a layer of soot on the active bead. This will partially or completely impair performance. Care needs to be taken in environments where gas levels over 70% LEL may be encountered.
For more information about sensor technology for flammable gases, read our comparison article on pellistors vs Infrared sensor technology: Are silicone implants degrading your gas detection?.
*Lower Explosive Limit – Learn more
Click in the top right hand corner of the video, to access a file that can be downloaded.